Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Roosevelt Island Heroes Wendy Hersh & Mary Coleman Honored By Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine As Women Who Lead During Covid - Well Deserved Recognition For Work At RIDA Food Pantry During Pandemic

Roosevelt Island residents Wendy Hersh and Mary Coleman

were honored by Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine during the Women Who Lead During Covid celebration last March 31 

 for their work operating the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA) Food Pantry

At the Women Who Lead During Covid celebration, Manhattan Borough President Community Affairs Director Tricia Shimamura spoke from personal experience working with Ms Hersh (RIDA President) and Ms. Coleman (RIDA Treasurer) at the RIDA Food Pantry. Ms Shimamura reported:

The moment that you step onto Roosevelt Island, either through the Tram or off of the F train you know that you're in some place very special. You see it in the infrastructure, in the programs that are being promoted, you see it most importantly in the people and that's why I'm so excited to be recognizing two of our honorees this evening.

Wendy Hirsch and Mary Coleman stepped up during the pandemic. They were both previously members of the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association but when the pandemic hit and when some of our most vulnerable people living with disabilities, people who were homebound, people who were taking care of large families and seniors were at their most vulnerable moments, it was these two extraordinary women who stepped up and created the Roosevelt Island food pantry.

Every week, I've seen Mary, who with all due respect does not hit five foot five inches, lug boxes of food into the senior center on Main Street of Roosevelt Island. I've seen Wendy stand for hours checking in residents and making sure that the residents not only get access to fresh produce and shelf-stable staples but also and maybe even more importantly have had a critical connection, a social connection, a checking in point, where they could check in with their neighbors to make sure that they were okay. 

In addition to the weekly food pantry that still to this day feeds hundreds of people every week, they've also provided vaccine pop-ups. They've done other social events, other aerobic events for the food pantry and just continue to be the best example that I could see of what Roosevelt Islanders have always been. They take care of one another, they stand up for their most vulnerable and they exhibit a real sense of community spirit so I'm extremely honored to not only be a member of the Roosevelt Island food pantry and to work alongside you but to really be able to recognize you here.

According to Ms Hersh:

We're on the board of the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association and up until the time of the pandemic our mission of that organization was to help people with disabilities live a better quality of life, the best quality of life that we could give them.

We provided them with trips, with holiday meals so they wouldn't feel alone and help them integrate into our community and make people more aware. When the pandemic happened, we lost a lot of friends, a lot of neighbors. 

We could not get food anywhere so we partnered up with the school PS/IS 217 and we would bring shopping carts full of food, a breakfast lunch and dinner, for 170 families. We would bring it back to the senior center because the senior center was closed at that time. We would pack them up into individual bags and we would have people, wonderful volunteers, go deliver to everybody's home so we would deliver to about 170 families.

And when you're talking about women, I would say 98% of our volunteers are women. 

It was really really incredible. ... we went from doing that into turning it into a food pantry. We saw the need was greater.  Just the amount of people with hidden disabilities that you would never think have a disability the mental health ... so we just decided to keep this going.

We got a lot of support from Roosevelt Island.... It's been wonderful. Mary and I have both lived on Roosevelt Island for about 45 years so if you come to Roosevelt Island you'll see us walking in the street. We're all over the place. everybody knows us so wherever we can give back but we thought that this was just so important and we're going to keep it going. 

I just want to say one more thing so without our volunteers this never would have worked. So one person, two people on a board just can't make things work. It takes a whole team to make things work. I'm President, she's Treasurer. It doesn't matter. We all work together to make it work...

Here's video of the March 31 Women Who Lead During Covid Celebration.

More info on the Roosevelt Island Food Pantry at this prior post.